Monthly Archives: May 2013

Spotlight: Fairphone’s Crowdfunded Ethical Smartphone

While you now touch your smartphone more than your partner, you’ve probably made less effort to find out any more about what’s on the inside.

If you found out your husband or wife was involved with child slavery, you’d certainly have to reconsider your relationship. I don’t know how you pick your partner, but your smartphone, your real best mate, actually probably is.

We don’t really know anything about where our handsets come from or who made them. George Monbiot, environmental columnist for the Guardian, recently did a report into the ethics of the industry. “There are dozens of issues,” he said, “such as starvation wages, bullying, abuse and 60-hour weeks in the sweatshops manufacturing them, the debt bondage into which some of the workers are pressed, the energy used, the hazardous waste produced. But I will concentrate on just one: are the components soaked in the blood of people from the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo?”

He found that Nokia appears to be the manufacturer most conscious of its ethical footprint, in terms of trying to get the precious metals that it takes to build a smartphone, tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold, from legal sources. He found the policies of the operators who sell smartphones and other manufacturers to be less convincing. Scenes of riots in Apple’s factories in China have been beamed around the world, while Samsung recently admitted after another Guardian investigation that its phones contain tin mined from an area that uses child labour and where 150 miners die every year.

Step forward Fairphone.

FairPhone‘s sleek Android handset has been three years in the making and it has now gone on pre-sale. The company needs 5,000 buyers of the £275 device in order to get the first batch out the door. The company says it has created an alternative for the “thing we can’t live without” with a transparent supply chain and ethical principles built-in. All the metals it contains come from conflict-free mines and the company says it has focused on improving the wages and conditions of its factory workers it China.

 For every Fairphone sold, €3 goes to removing e-waste from Ghana and in September, a shipping container filled with 100,000 phones and batteries will head to Belgium to be safely recycled. They encourage people to sell their old phones to recycling services, something they will introduce for Fairphones. Among their mantras is “reduce, reuse, refurbish, recycle”. “Our end goal is fewer phones in circulation – not more!” Which is a probably a scary prospect for our throwaway consumers and manufacturers.

But what about the specs? It is the running the latest version of Android, Jelly Bean, and its chipset is up there with the Samsung S4 as a 1.2GHz quadcore. But its 1GB of RAM and extra 20g doesn’t quite match up. Other than that, it has the full front/back camera, glass frontage and 16GB of internal memory.

And there probably ain’t anything quite like the feeling in your heart when you can pick up your best friend knowing that you won’t get blood on your hands.

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and published here

What are EU on about?

You’ll know the Conservative grassroots member by their swivelling eyes and lunatic-type behaviour, according to an as yet unnamed senior Conservative member whose unattributed remark has been splashed all over the papers like a kiss and tell in the Sun. They might be shouting gay people out of their church or terrorising European economic migrants in your local Polski Sklep.
And senior Conservative members, when they aren’t undermining their own supporters, are confusing and berating the general public in equal measure. They’re about as inclusive as the aristocracy.
Boris Johnson wrote a piece for the Telegraph last week that went thusly: “As a British diplomat once languidly observed, the trouble with the whole debate on Europe is that there is too much religion and not enough politics. It is like the feud in the early Christian Church between those who believed that Christ was of the same substance as the Father, and those who said He was of a similar but not identical substance. Was He homoousios or homoiousios? You might say it didn’t make an iota of difference – and yet that iota was the cause of strife that cost thousands of lives.”
You could probably express this same argument by saying: “The trouble with the whole debate on Europe is that there is too much religion and not enough politics. It is like the feud in the early days of Coke and Coke Diet. Does it taste the same? You might say it didn’t make one iota of difference – and yet that iota was the cause of strife that cost thousands of lives.” Ok. Maybe the last bit doesn’t work. And Coke obviously isn’t religion – although it is more popular – the only countries that it isn’t present in are Cuba and Syria. And likewise, Europe also isn’t a church. But in one fell swoop, Boris alienates anyone who hasn’t closely studied the Crusades, while a simple fizzy drink analogy would have made the same point.
So why would the Boris-friendly Torygraph, along with Murdoch’s Times, seek to stitch up the Conservative aid by reporting on his comments in the first place? Perhaps they are all FT subscribers, which this weekend reported to its wealthy readers that the EU is going to put a €500,000 pay threshold on bankers’ bonuses. Perhaps this is actually a double bluff by the right wing press and the Tory part itself to make the whole EU exit thing sound rather like a good, homegrown idea and not one imposed by friends of those at the top.
There are people – many of whom are members of the Conservative party – that wholeheartedly believe that we should leave Europe. There are many, much less well heard, who believe that we shouldn’t. So far, we have received little actual information on the topic, save that 100 Conservative MPs are very keen for us to have a referendum, they say at the behest of their members. But anyway, no one actually has any idea what the UK would look like after the event. So whether it’s because of Romanian immigrants, ‘elf and safety’, or because it’s going to hit their considerable bank balances, the anti-Europeans can’t be as sure as they sound. So let’s have another costly public vote on something that few people really understand, yeah? Because the Eurovision Song Contest clearly isn’t enough.
Intuitively I believe that Europe is a good thing. I think we are stronger together, weaker apart. And Barack Obama has expressed the same sentiment, whatever that means. The UK just isn’t that big a deal anymore. I like Europeans and I can’t understand why languages aren’t as valued in the UK as they are elsewhere. I feel impotent on the continent. Which gives me some idea of how impotence can actually feel. We have also seen the longest period of peace in the region under the European Union. Which is probably a good thing? An interviewee in the recent Ken Loach documentary The Spirit of ’45, made the rather grisly observation that if we could make killing Germans a legitimate industry, the UK would be thriving.
Some people reckon that with this piece BoJo was positioning himself to be the post-EU UK PM. ROFL? Might I suggest that our exit from the EU could be a long-term strategic plan to break that peace pact and get Britain working again? I can almost see Boris, Churchill-like, wearing a onesie (check it out at the Cabinet War Rooms museum), with a long stick in his hand directing the Boris Bombers. We can just ignore the people, doctor the evidence and send some brave people to their untimely deaths. And then the government will change and everyone will have collective amnesia. We’ll see.
One of his key points was that we are all actually pretty rubbish, with or without the EU. He said if we left we “would have to recognise that most of our problems are not caused by “Bwussels”, but by chronic British short-termism, inadequate management, sloth, low skills, a culture of easy gratification and under-investment in both human and physical capital and infrastructure.” Not sure how much of this can be laid at our door… Or even that of Bwussels.
Meanwhile, gay marriage has also become a sticking point for the Conservative party. I’m not quite sure why such an unpopular club would like to alienate willing members who want to give up their individual freedom in the ‘eyes of God’. Likewise, I wouldn’t be so keen to join a club that didn’t want me, although if it was my religion… I guess I’d just want it to be cool to marry the person I love.
So. This week, Conservatives are yet again trying to change the rules of a club that doesn’t really need us to be members while also refusing to change a club that they don’t really want other people to be members of.
Perhaps it’s all these little clubs – much like the ones where swivel-eyed loons of the journo-political variety hang out together – that are the problem.
Smashing illustration of BoJo by Dale Edwin Murray, created for the Sunday Times
Written for and first published here:

Vogue and Maxim are UK’s Best Cross-Platform Mags

Vogue and Maxim are the only UK-based magazines that are fully-optimised for a multi-platform audience – with iPhone, iPad and Android apps, along with sites specially designed for iPad, Nexus 7 and smartphones – according to research into multi-screen advertising experiences with publishing companies by

The survey of 100 popular consumer-facing magazines in the US, the UK and Germany found that 93 per cent  don’t offer their readers a fully cross-platform experience. 83 per cent of the 78 consumers magazine brands surveyed from the US and UK have an app. 65 per cent of these have an iPhone app and 40 per cent have Android. Almost all  – with notable exceptions like the BBC’s Radio Times – have a separate iPad app. But, the report says: “Without satisfactorily audited audience circulation figures available, especially where app are bundled in with print subscriptions or availabe for free, how [do we know] many people are seeing them?”

Fewer mobile sites despite easier targeting

46 per cent of the UK-based magazines assessed by the company and 45 per cent of the German publications did not have a site optimised for smartphones. Just 25 per cent of the US ones were in the same position. The report says: “While many publishers have invested heavily in apps, website readerships are much larger, targetable and easier to analyse.”

Many of the publishers offer a scaled version of their desktop site to tablet and smartphone surfers, with varying results.  Glamour magazine in the UK scaled to fit the smaller screen, although the writing becomes rather small, while Wired magazine readers in the UK have to move their screen from side-to-side to read full articles on the scaled site.

Vice and Marie Claire were missing just one of the seven criteria used each – an Android app and an iPad-optimised site respectively.

Written for Mobile Marketing and first published here:

IBM Creates AllAboard Travel Optimsation Tool for the Ivory Coast

Researchers from IBM have created a map of potential bus routes for the Ivory Coast’s largest city, Abidjan, using data collected from more than 500,000 cell phone calls.

Today, 539 buses are supplemented by 5,000 mini-buses and 11,000 taxis to take people around the city, which has a population or more than 3.5m. The AllAboard team believes that re-designing the infrastructure around people’s movements could cut travel times in the notoriously busy city by 10 per cent.

As many phones in use in the developing world do not have GPS functionality, the data gathered from phone calls or text messages, which register with a nearby mobile tower. The person’s movements can be ascertained as the call is transferred to a different tower or a new call is made near another tower.

The anoymised data from 2.5 bn calls made by 5m phone users was gathered by Orange between December 2011 and April 2012 and released for use in its Data for Development project. This is the largest data release of its kind, according to MIT, which is hosting the NetMob conference where the rest of the projects will be showcased.

“This represents a new front with a potentially large impact on improving urban transportation systems,” said Francesco Calabrese, a researcher at IBM’s research lab in Dubli and a co-author of a paper on the project. “People with cell phones can serve as sensors and be the building blocks of development efforts.”

David Talbot, chief correspondent at the MIT Technology Review, said: “Cell phone data promises to be a boon for many industries. Other research groups are using similar data sets to develop credit histories based on a person’s movements and phone-based transactions, to detect emerging ethnic conflicts, and to predict where people will go after a natural disaster to better serve them when one strikes.

“While in a number of past studies mobile phone data was used to infer travel routes and demand, IBM says this was the first time such data was used in an effort to actually optimize a city transit network.”

Written for Mobile Marketing Magaizne and first published here: